Having now acquired the original version of Neil Thomas's Simplicity in Practice rules, I thought I'd give them a go in their almost basic form this evening. I say 'almost basic'; I still had far too many reservations about the melee system, where even a single advantage seemed to tip the odds so far in the holder's favour that, to some extent, for all the dice being rolled the results were ridiculously predictable. So I tweaked the melee rules. I kept the idea of rolling four dice, as this ties in with the firing. And I still added two dice for each factor listed, except for flank/rear attacks, which added four dice. But instead of adding up the total of the dice (which is, let's face it, a bit of an effort in what is otherwise a set with fast mechanisms), I simply read each die scoring 4 or more as a 'hit'. The side which scored the most hits won the melee, with ties going to the side which rolled the fewest dice; they win by virtue of getting the highest proportion of hits.
The rules were designed for fighting the Charles Grant Tabletop Teasers. So they struck me as a perfect set to use for a One Hour Wargames scenario, and looked like they'd be OK for the next one in my progressive refight - Twin Objectives. So I got out the paper Wars of Liberation armies, and set the game up ...
It's 1819. A column of Bolivar's army is moving towards the small settlement of Papel, on a curve of the Orinoco River, when it encounters a Royalist force blocking its line of march and holding the village. In addition the Royalist's local indian allies are lurking in the forested hills to the south west of the village. Both objectives must be cleared of the enemy before the advance can continue.
The Republicans had three units of infantry, one of light infantry and two of cavalry. The Royalists had three units of infantry and one of light infantry. This would be a tough one for Bolivar's troops, since neither objective was one that could be assaulted by the cavalry that made up a third of their force.
The Royalists deployed their infantry in and around the village.
Meanwhile their indian allies lurked in the woods.
The Republicans deployed the cavalry on their right, the infantry in the centre and their own light troop on the far left.
With the town looking tricky prospect, the Republicans went for a risky strategy; they would assault the town with the bulk of their force, and hope that their light infantry would be sufficient to drive off the indians.
The light troops entered the woods, and a firefight ensued, muskets against arrows.
Bolivar's men advanced rapidly on the village.
Closing up, the cavalry was thrown straight into the attack. Frontally charging the enemy infantry was not a great plan, but the hope was that the second unit of cavalry's support would offset this disadvantage.
The cavalry was repulsed, in considerable disorder.
It fled at the next volley from the Royalists. The other unit of cavalry took shelter behind its infantry.
The infantry lines exchanged musketry for a couple of turns, but it didn't go well for the Republicans, who could make little impression on the infantry holed up in the village, and who lost a unit to fire from those troops deployed outside the village.
More boldness was required; the cavalry was hurled into a wild attack on the infantry outside of the village so that the Republican infantry would be supported in a sudden, desperate attack against the objective.
The fighting was fierce ...
... and the cavalry broke their opponents. In fact it was a draw, but since the cavalry were rolling fewer dice they won the tie. Unfortunately the infantry assault on the village itself was repulsed.
Meanwhile, in the woods, very little was happening. Both units had taken one 'hit', but a result was looking unlikely.
Back at he village the Republicans, with nothing to lose now, went in again.
This time they forced the Royalists back.
The cavalry threatened the other Royalist infantry unit, in order to prevent it reinforcing the village. The infantry responded by taking the horsemen under a steady fire.
With the village under threat, the Royalists needed to do something decisive. With the Republican light infantry now on two hits, the indians charged ...
... and massacred their opponents. They now had undisputed control of the objective, and the Republicans had no time, or spare units, with which to capture it. Their first move gamble had failed.
There was still a chance of taking the village, and salvaging some honour out of the engagement. A mostly fresh Republican unit charged the Royalist defenders ...
... but they were driven off. With both infantry units close to breaking, and their cavalry unable to attack the objective, the Republicans fell back to lick their wounds.
So a victory to the Royalist defenders.
On the whole this wasn't that exciting a game, despite the write-up. There was little scope for manoeuvre, with the Royalists pretty much static for the whole battle, and the Republicans somewhat committed to a frontal assault. It's possible that they could have swung their infantry further towards the river, to concentrate their fire on the village alone, and used the cavalry to cover against a counter-attack by the other Royalist infantry. But firing is not that decisive in these rules, as the action in the woods showed. I have fought this scenario before, almost exactly a year ago, in fact, and it gave a great little game. I think the combinations of troops in this game didn't offer as much scope as that one did.
I'm reasonably impressed with Simplicity in Practice. After this game I played another, using one of the more conventional head to head scenarios, and it gave a close and interesting game. My changes to the melee system still make it decisive, and it's still worth stacking up as many advantages as you can, but fortune now swings the way of the underdog sometimes, which is how it should be.
Follow the rest of the scenario refights HERE